Ethiopia, Somalia Seek Regional Assistance
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi called for foreign peacekeepers in Somalia, stressing that his country could not afford to maintain the operation indefinitely. Speaking to Ethiopia’s parliament, he said, "We will now leave as soon as possible, it could be weeks, it could be months. We don't have the money to take this burden individually." Meles has a long standing personal rivalry with Sheikh Aweys and other members of the Islamic Courts Union, stemming back to Aweys’ al-Ittihad al-Islamiya terrorist group’s attacks on the Ethiopian government in the mid 1990’s. While quite true that Ethiopia is ill-equipped financially to endure a protracted deployment and operations, his plea for international support is as grounded in hopes for financial aid (principally American) to allow him to pursue Aweys with his own forces as it is in a desire for additional international troops to shoulder the extended burden in Somalia.
In the near term, the Transitional Federal Government is reportedly announcing the re-opening of the Mogadishu airport Wednesday.
Somali President Abdillahi Yusuf met with Kenya's Internal Security minister John Michuki in Mumbassa, Kenya, to discuss the Somali request that its southern neighbor seal its border to prevent the retreating ICU fighters from seeking refuge there. Kenya has reportedly arrested eight Islamists in retreat, among them an Ethiopian with a Canadian passport who is said to be a member of the Ogaden National Liberation Front, an Ethiopian terrorist group sympathetic to the ICU Islamist movement.
The report, originally printed in Kenya's The East African Standard newspaper, also noted that many of the Islamist fighters seeking entry into Kenya are "Somali Kenyans" that were recruited by the ICU to join the fighting for control of Somalia who are now seeking to return to their Kenyan homes.
In a bit of an odd and unconfirmed development, Garowe Online reported that Hussein Aideed, the TFG interior minister and son of the killed Somali warlord Mohammed Farah Aideed, spoke to Mogadishu clan leaders in a meeting and informed them that Somalia and Ethiopia were going to merge into one country under one government with one unified military force. Aideed was quoted as saying that "The two countries [Somalia and Ethiopia] are brothers and share a similar political agenda."
It is important to note that no other developments support this assertion, even tangentially, especially considering Ethiopia's statements of its plans to withdraw its forces within "weeks, perhaps months."